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Carnival Sunshine Review - A family travel review of Carnival's 9-day eastern Caribbean cruise from Port Canaveral, FL

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The following Carnival Sunshine review is a 100% authentic, 100% real review. Dadtography.com editor Daniel and family paid for this family vacation entirely on their own. Dadtography.com was not provided compensation in any way for this review.

All photos and videos in this review are Dadtography.com originals. Please don't use our photos without permission.

Carnival Sunshine Review - 8-Night Eastern Caribbean

Traveling as a family can be a great way for the family to come together and experience new destinations together. My family and I decided to book a spring break cruise together in 2018. We wanted to do a longer cruise aboard a Carnival ship, so we decided on a 9-day Eastern Caribbean sailing on the Carnival Sunshine.

This Carnival Sunshine review is after our most recent 2018 sailing, and includes a lot of photo and video from our trip. Come along with us as we explore the ship, the ports of call and our adventure as a family in 2018.

Spring Break 2018 - A Carnival Sunshine Review

One day late last year, not long after hurricanes Maria and Irma ravaged islands in the Caribbean, we decided to book a family vacation. The timing was a bit odd, at first. We were looking at visiting locations that had just experienced devastation that many of us saw, from afar, on the news and in photos.

There was something about the Caribbean that called me, though. I wanted to visit and see for myself, how San Juan, Puerto Rico, was doing. I wanted to see the island of St. Maarten close-up, and speak to some of the people that live there and went through the storm.

So on a whim, one night in November of 2017, we booked an 8-night / 9-day cruise aboard the Carnival Sunshine. It would end up being the best family vacation we've ever had.

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Carnival Sunshine Cruise Review Contents

This is a pretty thorough review, so we've created a topic menu if you want to skip to a specific section of the review. Here's what this review of our Carnival Sunshine Cruise out of Port Canaveral, FL will cover.

Cruise Itinerary Map

See a map view of the ports of call on this cruise.

Cruise Ports

More detail on the ports of call visited on this sailing.

Video Tour Slideshow

See a video showing a photo tour of the Carnival Sunshine.

Review of the Ship

See an overview and vital stats on the Carnival Sunshine.

Sunshine Cabin Review

We review our interior cabin (stateroom) on the ship.

Pool & Waterslides

We spent a lot of time at the pool and waterslide.

Sunshine Activities

Explore "FunShip" features on board the Carnival Sunshine.

Serenity Decks

"Serenity" decks are Carnival's nod to parents looking for quiet.

Sunshine Staff Review

Here are some thoughts about the Carnival Sunshine cruise staff.

Food & Dining

Learn more about our dining experiences onboard.

Ship Photo Gallery

Check out a ton of photos from the Carnival Sunshine.

Final Thoughts

Overall review of the cruise with a category break-down.

Carnival Sunshine Cruise Map of Our Ports-of-Call

I really do love the islands of the Eastern Caribbean, but for some reason, I don't get to see them very often. Most of the family cruises that we've been on so far have been Western Caribbean and Mexico.

I was really excited to be returning to the island of St. Maarten especially. I had visited the island a lifetime ago (16 years, give or take) and Grand Turk, San Juan and St. Kitts would all be new destinations for me and my family.

Where did the Carnival Sunshine port?

  1. Friday - Leave Port Canaveral
  2. Saturday - Day at Sea
  3. Sunday - Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos
  4. Monday - San Juan, Puerto Rico
  5. Tuesday -St. Kitts, British Virgin Islands
  6. Wednesday - St. Maarten (Dutch)
  7. Thursday - Day at Sea
  8. Friday - Day at Sea
  9. Saturday - Return to Port

Carnival Sunshine - 9-Day Cruise Ports of Call Details

The ports and itinerary for our spring break eastern Caribbean sailing aboard the Sunshine were some of my favorite ports to-date. We were able to visit four unique destinations on this sailing. Learn more about each port below.

Port Canaveral, FL

Port Canaveral is my favorite cruise ship port in the US to-date. I've sailed out of there, Ft. Lauderdale (Port Everglades) and Miami, so far and I definitely prefer Port Canaveral. It truly is a customer-friendly gateway to major consumer markets and leisure destinations.

It's a new port, with great parking, it's easy to navigate and it's not a huge hassle that you have to endure before you begin your journey. Strategically located on the east coast of central Florida, just 40 minutes or so east of Orlando. Port Canaveral is convenient for anyone living in or visiting central Florida.

Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos
San Juan, Puerto Rico
St. Kitts, British Virgin Islands
St. Maarten (Dutch)

Carnival Sunshine Ship

Overall, how is the ship?

I am going to be honest. My expectations of the Carnival Sunshine weren't high before we sailed.

The ship was built in the late-90's and refurbished in 2013. The ship isn't nearly as large as some other vessels that sail longer duration itineraries on rival cruise lines (and bigger is better, right?). In fact, it's only about half the size of the newly-launched Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas ship.

All that said, the Sunshine surprised me.

The ship was smaller, yes. It's actually slightly smaller than the Carnival Liberty, which we've sailed on a few times as a family. But what it lacks in size, it definitely makes up for in other areas. It's not perfect, but it definitely fits the "FunShip" brand promise that Carnival makes.

Keep scrolling to learn more about specific areas of the ship, like the SportSquare you see shown in the photo here.

SportSquare activities on board the Carnival Sunshine Ship
SportSquare activities on board the Carnival Sunshine Ship

In a word? Good.

How are the cabins on the Carnival Sunshine?

Naturally, we can't do a review of all cabin types on the Carnival Sunshine. I'd love it if we'd have sailed enough times to have tried each room type. Unfortunately, we've only sailed once, so our thoughts are on the cabin we stayed in.

For spring break of 2018, we sailed on the Carnival Sunshine as a family of four in a single inside stateroom. I'm not going to lie and say that it was awesome, but it wasn't terrible, either. It was tight quarters when we were all inside the room at the same time, which wasn't very frequently. Also, there was next to zero privacy, but the room met our need to make the trip affordable for our family. We spent a lot of time outside the room at the pool, water slides, SportSquare and other parts of the ship, so the room size wasn't really much of an issue for us.

We Enjoyed Our Interior Stateroom on the Carnival Sunshine

Overall, the staterooms on the Sunshine appear to be in good to very good condition. The renovation from 2013 was a few years ago, but the rooms are still in good shape, from what we experienced.

The interior staterooms aren't the largest, but you likely know that already going into an interior room. You don't stay in an inside cabin for the size of the room.

Comparing the inside stateroom on the Sunshine to other ships and cruise lines I've sailed on, it was slightly larger than the room on the Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas, and about the same size as the comparable room on the Carnival Liberty.

Inside cabins aren't for everyone, that's for sure. If you're not a fan of tight spaces or if "personal space" is an issue for you, I don't recommend sailing more than two people per inside cabin. Moving around inside the room can be an issue, but the biggest challenge will be where to store all of our luggage, clothing and personal items (hint: under the bed).

Overall, we enjoyed our stay on the Sunshine in the inside cabin. It wasn't spacious, but it was a great value and allowed us to spend the money we saved on other activities and purchases and that's exactly what we wanted!

Dadtography.com's Top 10

Reasons to Cruise

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Carnival vs Royal

Which Cruise Line Wins?

The top two cruise lines in the world are Carnival and Royal Caribbean, but which is the better option. We answer this age-old question once and for all.

Pools and Slides Matter to Kids

How are the pools and water slides on the Carnival Sunshine?

Okay, now to some of the fun stuff - namely, the "FunShip" features on the Carnival Sunshine, starting with the pools and water slides.

Carnival is a great cruise line to sail on if you're traveling as a family with younger kids, primarily because of all the fun stuff to do on the ships. Again, the ships aren't the largest on the ocean, but they sure do have a lot of stuff to do.

When we sail Carnival, we spend a lot of our time playing in the pool and on the water slides. Most Carnival ships have at least one water slide; the Carnival Sunshine just so happens to have three water slides!

The Pool is Pretty Typical but the Slides Are Awesome!

That pretty much sums it up from my perspective - the main Lido deck pool is pretty typical for a Carnival ship. There's a single pool accessible to all on the ship (ie: to children) on the Lido deck (deck 9). On the Sunshine, this pool is called the "Beach Pool".

The Beach Pool on Lido deck isn't very large, it's salt water, as opposed to chlorine (most pools are salt) and it's not heated. It was very rare to see an adult inside the Beach Pool for the most part. The pool was full of kids when it was busy, but I suspect that's partly because they are the only ones able to tolerate the colder temperatures of the water.

In addition to the Lido deck pool, there's also an adults-only pool on deck 11 Serenity. The "Serenity" areas on the Carnival Sunshine span multiple decks, from deck 11 up to deck 14. Deck 11 has a pool only for adults and deck 14 has a hot tub only for adults as well.

The water slides and WaterWorks are another story entirely, though. They are absolutely awesome on the Carnival Sunshine and "worth the price of admission" especially if you're traveling with children on your trip.

Activities Galore Aboard Sunshine

What else is there to do on the Carnival Sunshine?

What else is there to do on the Carnival Sunshine besides the pools and water slides? Again, we're all about two things when we sail as a family:

  1. Entertainment options for our boys
  2. Relaxation opportunities for us

When the water features on a ship are good, the "other" entertainment options don't matter nearly as much. The SportSquare was great for our boys as well. There was a SkyCourse ropes course that our older son loved and both enjoyed the basketball court, foosball tables, billiards, outdoor over-size chess and, of course, the mini golf.

I will say that we didn't attend a single show on the entire sailing aboard the Sunshine. The show options just didn't appeal to me, and the venues aren't very large on the Sunshine.

A few other entertainment options available on the Sunshine include:

  • Lip Sync Battle
  • Hasbro the Game Show
  • Playlist Productions (Musicals)
  • The Punchliner Commedy Club
  • Stage Shows
  • Dive-In Movies (on Lido deck)
  • Piano Bar
  • Live Music - we enjoyed the live bands on deck 3 aft most evenings before dinner

Serenity is for Relaxation

How are the Serenity decks on the Carnival Sunshine?

The Serenity decks on board Carnival ships are very important for parents' sanity - well, at least they are for mine. Carnival is known as a "party" ship, and that's not far from the truth. They can be loud and busy, especially during days at sea.

If you're sailing without children, I'd advise on potentially choosing another cruise line over Carnival first. The Serenity decks on the Sunshine were good, but not all ships offered the same features and amount of space (there was a lot) that we had on the Sunshine.

If you're a parent traveling with children, then you'll be pleased to know the Serenity decks (yes, plural) are fantastic aboard the Sunshine. They start on deck 11, which includes quite a bit of shaded / covered seating as well as an adults-only pool with a waterfall back-drop. Decks 12 through 14 include various seating, from tables and chairs to bar-top seating, loungers and even hammock swings.

The Serenity decks on Sunshine offer adults looking to get away from the noise and commotion of the ship (ie: their kids) for some peace and quiet. This was my personal favorite feature of the ship because my goal is always to relax and recharge when I am on a cruise.

Carnival Sunshine Cruise Ship Staff Review

We're going to split this portion of the review up into a few different sections, based on our first-hand experience with the various staff on board the ship.

It first must be said that we have a new appreciation of the hard work that cruise ship staff put in after our recent behind-the-scenes tour aboard a cruise ship. There are so many staff that work tirelessly behind the scenes and get very little credit for their work. Their efforts should be acknowledged.

DJ spinning on the Carnival Sunshine Ship

How are the stateroom staff on Carnival Sunshine?

As with any service related role, your experience may vary when it comes to the staff on a cruise ship. One of the most consistent interactions is with the staff that maintains your stateroom.

They are the ones that greet you every morning when you wake and welcome you back each evening when you return. Oh, and they're also the ones that create those cute towel animals most of the time as well. Their role in your experience is very important.

Our cabin steward's name was Rigoberto. I remembered him by name, even to this day. Rigoberto was very pleasant and clearly hard-working. He did a lot for us on our sailing and we were sure to leave him a tip at the end of our vacation. Rigoberto should be commended for his work.

How are the dining room staff on Carnival Sunshine?

We've started sailing most of our recent cruises using the "Your Time Dining" feature. This allows us to go to dinner anytime we please, within a pretty wide window from around 5:30pm to as late as 9 or 9:30pm.

That said, when on "Your Time Dining", it's much more difficult to make a connection with the dining room staff, because you typically don't have the same service team from one evening to the next.

That said, we had a very hit and miss experience with the dining room staff. On the first night of the sailing in the dining room, it was clear to us that most of our service crew were new and inexperienced. Service was slow and almost klutzy. They were very uncoordinated.

Subsequent evenings varied from night to night. We had an excellent dining experience on "formal night" because the staff at the table we were placed were clearly experienced at and skilled in serving and table service.

None of the dining room staff were ever rude or had poor attitudes; the service just varied greatly because the teams that provided service to us changed from sitting to sitting.

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Carnival Sunshine's Restaurant and Food Review

Cruise ship dining and food is probably one of the most hotly debated topics in cruise travel today. There's no single opinion or answer to whether the food is good or bad because the experience can vary from one ship to another, from one cruise line to another, and even from one restaurant to another.

Food on cruise ships is not a standard experience. It all varies, and your experience may vary as well. The below information represents our own personal experience from our sailing aboard the Carnival Sunshine. For a full list of dining options on board the Sunshine, you can check out this page on Carnival's website where you can filter by ship availability.

Lido Restaurant (Buffet)

The Lido Restaurant buffet available on the Carnival Sunshine during our sailing was decent, but I found it to be very repetitive on this sailing and didn't provide a lot of variety.

I was hoping more options and variety would be made available in the Lido Restaurant as the days and ports changed, but for the most part, it did not. The food stayed almost identical from day-to-day, absent most port-themed dining options you may come to enjoy.

The Lido Restaurant Buffet is safe if you have picky eaters you're traveling with, but if you're looking to change things up, it's probably best to dine elsewhere on the Sunshine.

Main Dining Room
Cucina Del Capitano
Other Dining Options

Carnival Sunshine - Spring Break Family Cruise Photo Gallery

Click any photo below to view a larger version.

Carnival Sunshine Cruise Review - Final Thoughts

Our spring break sailing aboard the Carnival Sunshine has been our favorite family cruise vacation to-date. The ship isn't perfect, but it's very nice, with so many activities to do for the kids.

The Serenity Deck areas of the ship are great for parents that just want to relax away from the noise of the ship (and their kids).

The food was above average in most of our experiences and the service was very good in almost every aspect of our experience - from the cabin steward, to the Lido deck staff, to the dining room staff, we appreciate all of the cruise ship staff that make our vacations possible.

We would highly recommend any family with children in the teens to younger range to consider sailing aboard the Carnival Sunshine. There's something for everyone, the eastern Caribbean itinerary is absolutely excellent and the value just can't be beat!

My son on the Carnival Sunshine Ship at Sunset
What do you think? Have you been on a Carnival Cruise aboard the Sunshine? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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